Students to make film to woo foreign backpackers

Staff writer, with CNA

Wed, Jan 09, 2013 - Page 5

Why don’t more foreign backpackers come to Taiwan?

This is a question that has been puzzling three seniors at Chung Yuan Christian University’s Department of Commercial Design who have decided to produce an Internet documentary to attract more foreign backpackers to Taiwan.

The plan is to document the travel experiences of three such backpackers in Taiwan.

“We hope our film will help foreign nationals find reasons to visit Taiwan, especially when they’re on an Asia trip,” Lin Chun-yeh, one of the would-be producers, was quoted as saying by local media.

With many budget airlines now offering flights to Taiwan, the number of foreign backpackers is increasing steadily, Tourism Bureau officials say.

Bureau Deputy Director-General Wayne Lin said the bureau would invite leading members of student associations at major universities in the US, Germany, France, the UK and Japan to visit Taiwan this year as part of efforts to attract more young backpackers.

The bureau also plans to hold “Taiwan Week” programs at universities abroad in partnership with their student associations or foreign students who are studying in Taiwan under exchange programs, he added.

Lin Chun-yeh and his classmates Chou Ting-you and Lin Hsin-han are avid backpackers.

Lin said that he met a number of Western backpackers during his travels in northern Thailand.

“Many of them had toured India, Cambodia and Vietnam and were scheduled to visit China after Thailand,” he said, adding that he was bewildered as to why none of them had Taiwan on their list of travel destinations.

In September last year, he and his two classmates began to work on a plan for a promotional documentary.

They have already produced a trailer that has been shared by many Facebook users and has inspired widespread discussion.

The trailer begins with the trio asking foreign backpackers they meet abroad whether they have ever considered traveling to Taiwan.

“No,” the foreign backpackers answer unanimously.

Most of those featured in the trailer have visited China, but have never been to Taiwan. Some of them say Taiwan is too far away for them to visit and several others say they cannot think of a reason to travel to Taiwan.

In the trailer, several backpackers cannot distinguish between Taiwan and Thailand, while a few others ask whether Taiwan is independent from China.

The trailer also features interviews with two foreign backpackers on their arrival at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

Lin Chun-yeh said he and his classmates will take advantage of the upcoming winter break to produce a full-length documentary on the experiences of three foreign backpackers in Taiwan.

“So far, only a New Zealander has agreed to tell his story in our documentary,” he said.

The three students said they were planning to offer budget airline tickets to Taiwan to foreign backpackers who are traveling in Southeast Asia, on condition that they agree to be filmed for the documentary.

Lin Chun-yeh said he had also interviewed scores of US and European backpackers in Taiwan.

“They were generally impressed by the local people’s hospitality, but some of them said public transportation services are not convenient,” Lin said.

One US tourist complained that local transportation services were not foreigner-friendly since the tickets are not printed in English.

The number of young Taiwanese who go backpacking abroad has been rising significantly in recent years, while foreign backpacker arrivals to Taiwan have remained relatively small.

Of the 7.3 million visitor arrivals last year, about 2.5 million were individual travelers, with the majority coming from Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Malaysia, according to Tourism Bureau estimates.

The number of backpackers from China is expected to increase this year, bureau officials said, because residents of more Chinese cities are now allowed to make independent trips to Taiwan.